Two arrested over 'Old Firm' internet hate campaign

Police operation targets more than 50 people posting comments on social networking sites
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Police yesterday arrested two men as part of an operation expected to target more than 50 people allegedly involved in internet hate campaigns surrounding Celtic and Rangers players and staff.

Officers raided two homes in Paisley and Glasgow on Saturday morning and arrested two men, aged 23 and 27, in connection with an alleged sectarian breach of the peace. The arrests came ahead of today's "Old Firm" clash between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox.

The ongoing operation targets people posting hateful comments on social networking sites, which the Daily Record newspaper reports include sectarian comments about Celtic's manager, Neil Lennon, and racist remarks about the Rangers forward El Hadji-Diouf. Further raids are expected.

Superintendent Kirk Kinnell, of Strathclyde Police, said: "I would like to deliver a clear message to those who continue to make hate-filled comments, and cause distress to decent members of the public, that we will pursue you relentlessly until this behaviour is stopped. Some people seem to think they are anonymous online or can hide in a crowd, but technology can also be used to bring the police directly to you wherever you are."

An extra 1,000 officers are on duty across Strathclyde today for this afternoon's match at Ibrox, the last time the two teams meet this season. A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman said this was usual for an Old Firm fixture.

There have been concerns that today's game could be marred by disorder. Last month's heated Scottish Cup tie between the Glasgow football rivals at Celtic Park involved three red cards, a touchline confrontation between Lennon and Rangers' assistant manager Ally McCoist and more than 30 arrests off the pitch.

A subsequent summit on Old Firm fixtures, chaired by Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, resulted in an eight-point plan designed to tackle disorder. It included a pledge that police would have support in order to enforce the law in relation to public order on the internet.

Last night, police investigating the four parcel bombs sent to Lennon, the former MSP Trish Godman and Paul McBride QC appealed again for information. They are particularly keen to trace a young man and woman seen in Montgomerie Terrace, Kilwinning, at around 2.10pm on 15 April, getting on a No 20 Stagecoach bus towards Ardrossan. The package addressed to Mr McBride was found in a postbox in Montgomerie Terrace.

The man, who is white, in his early 20s and with dark-coloured hair, was wearing a light blue-and-white striped top, and jeans. The woman, also white and in her early 20s, was wearing a dark padded jacket.